COLUMBUS, Ohio - A national study suggests that a significantly greater number of highly educated women in their late 30s and 40s are deciding to have children - a dramatic turnaround from recent history.
Among college-educated women, childlessness peaked in the late 1990s, when about 30 percent had no children, according to the new analysis of U.S. data. But childlessness declined about 5 percentage points between 1998 and 2008.
"We may be seeing the beginning of a new trend," said Bruce Weinberg, co-author of the study and professor of economics at Ohio State University.
"One of the major economic stories of the second half of the 20th century was that highly educated women were working more and having fewer children. It is too early to definitively say that trend is over, but there is no doubt we have seen fertility rise among older, highly educated women."
The turnaround in fertility is especially surprising because other trends - particularly lower rates of marriage - would tend to keep fewer women from becoming mothers.
The study shows that college-graduate women born in the late 1950s were the turning point. They were less likely to have children than previous cohorts up until their late 30s, when they reversed the trend and showed large increases in fertility.
Highly educated women born since then have continued the trend, being more likely to have children, and starting to have children at earlier ages.
It is not clear from this research whether older, highly educated women are dropping out of the labor market to have children, or are continuing to work.
"We don't have the data in this study to say whether they are opting out of the labor market. But we can say they are increasingly opting for families," Weinberg said.
The first author on the study is Qingyan Shang, an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Their study appears onl
|Contact: Bruce Weinberg|
Ohio State University